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Sam’s Clubs drive Lehmann’s Bakery growth, addition
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Sam’s Clubs drive Lehmann’s Bakery growth, addition

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STURTEVANT — Soaring demand from Sam’s Club for Lehmann’s Bakery kringles is leading the local company toward an expansion at its production facility here.

Thursday evening at the Municipal Building, 2801 89th St., the Sturtevant Plan Commission voted 7-0 to recommend conceptual approval of a building addition at Lehmann’s production facility, 9117 Durand Ave. The addition would remove and replace the existing freezer with a much larger one.

“Our business has grown exponentially the last two years,” said Wayne Palmer-Ball, the company’s former half-owner and brother of the current owner.

Before that expansion, Lehmann’s — which also has a small retail area at its Sturtevant location and a retail store at 4900 Spring St. in Mount Pleasant — was mainly selling in Wisconsin, Palmer-Ball said. But then it entered the Chicago market with Sam’s Club.

“Then, all of a sudden, we were getting calls from Minnesota and Iowa,” he said. The sales territory expanded as far west as Kansas City, Missouri, as far south as southern Missouri and into Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, and Ohio.

“Last year we took on Michigan which was a huge, huge boost” with 28 more Sam’s Clubs there, Palmer-Ball continued. During 2014, at times business was as much as 140 percent above the previous year’s levels, he said.

Lehmann’s Bakery now supplies Sam’s Clubs in 10 states, he said.

“Because of that, our freezer capacity is at its limit,” he said. “We’re trying to grow that so we can meet our holiday needs.” They hope to break ground in spring on the project Palmer-Ball estimated at roughly $400,000.

The new freezer building would be 54 by 75 feet by 20 feet tall, and at least half would be a new freezer, he said. That height will allow stacking of pallets two high.

The addition, which will connect to the existing building, will also house staging area for shipping, storage of dry goods and possibly some office space, Palmer-Ball said.

In 1986 he and his brother, current Lehmann’s owner Charlie Palmer-Ball, bought the former Brick Oven Bakery in Sturtevant to supply doughnuts, rolls, breads and cookies to the convenience stores they owned then. The owner of Lehmann’s Bakery sold out to them in 1998.

Lehmann’s currently employs 15 to 20 people in Sturtevant and about 25 altogether, Wayne Palmer-Ball said.

“Our business has grown exponentially the last two years.” — Wayne Palmer-Ball, Lehmann’s Bakery.

“Our business has grown exponentially the last two years.”

-- Wayne Palmer-Ball, Lehmann’s Bakery.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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